Tripoli Is Not A Sectarian City, It’s The Only City To Be Respected These Elections 

Robert Fadel, you have failed your city. 
Lebanese media, you have failed Tripoli yet again and the country once more.

Lebanese people of all kinds, you have fallen once more to your preconceptions about Lebanon’s poorest city and turned it, once again, to a sectarian haven where those scary-Christian-hating Sunnis reign supreme.

On Sunday, May 29th, Tripoli entered the Lebanese history books by being the only major city this election cycle to deliver what everyone can’t but call the biggest democratic political upheaval in Lebanon.

With a dismal 26% voting rate, the people of that city shut down a list that included Hariri’s Future Movement, Miqati, Safadi, Karami, and other factions from the city, sending them to a deafening loss facing a list backed by Rifi.

Their list was running under the slogan of uniting the “Sunni ranks.” To do so, they were backed by the Mufti of Tripoli and had Islamists in their ranks. If Tripoli were sectarian, it would have voted for them. And yet it didn’t. 

Say what you want about Rifi, and I’m not a fan in the very least, but there is a special air to one man single handedly beating giants who thought they could get people to fall in line once more, vote them in once again, and watch them do as they please to the place they call home, which is ruin it and make sure it never amounts to its full potential, which is what they’ve been doing all together for the past 10 years.

It is also the epitome of irony that Rifi beat Hariri, with him being a man who embodies the values that Hariri used to stand for before selling out. It is the mother of failures to be beaten by a man who promises to be harsher on those who killed your father than you.

But that’s not the full story.

Tripoli voted for change. It did what no other major city in this country did. It refused its status quo. It told the country and its major politicians with all their billions and might to go screw themselves. You can’t but salute that.

In voting for change, though, Tripoli’s municipal council turned out to be purely constituted of Muslim Sunnis. The outcry from such a council was immense. How could they? Lebanon’s media cried. I am so upset I will quit, wept now-resigned MP Robert Fadel.

It is also immensely ironic that an MP who was probably spotted in his home city around 5 times in the past 7 years resigns from a parliament in protest of Christians not breaking into that city’s municipal council, but not because he has utterly and irrevocably failed his city in his entire parliamentary tenure. Where was Mr. Fadel’s outrage when the people of Tripoli spent sleepless nights under the barrage of mortar missiles? Where was the outrage when his city’s reputation became that of a place only known for terrorism? Where was the outrage when his city became the Mediterranean’s poorest city? 

The fact of the matter is that Mr. Fadel is a continuation of the horrific Lebanese mentality that an MP is only a representative of their sect, and not as the constitution says, of the entire country. Mr. Fadel, that Sunni you’re upset has taken the spot of a Christian in a municipal board is as much as your constituency as that Christian. 

You can’t blame Robert Fadel much, however. He did something that 126 of his colleagues should have done years ago. It’s a shame he’s doing it under the pretext of setting himself as a Christian figure for the context of an electoral law that might see him need the votes of Christians outside of Tripoli.

But I digress. The fact of the matter is that the Sunnis of Tripoli voted for Christians and Alawite municipal members in droves. Those candidates simply did not win.

On Sunday, May 29, 700 Christians voted in Tripoli out of tens of thousands of registered voters. Christian candidates got over 15763 votes total result. The last winning candidate got 15914. That’s a 150 vote difference only that’s getting everyone to panic. Yes, those 15,763 votes are mostly Sunnis. But never mind, they’re scary.

Tripoli has sectarian people, like any other Lebanese city or town, but it’s not a sectarian city. No city with its history of diversity can be as such. 

How can we cry sectarianism in Tripoli when property sale ads in Christian areas in the country specify the buyer needs to be a Christian? 

How can we cry sectarianism in Tripoli for fear of the fate of the city’s Christians when they didn’t even bother to vote? Also please note that Tripoli’s Christians probably couldn’t care less and have more faith in their Muslim neighbor and friends than someone like Robert Fadel who is supposed to represent them but couldn’t even manage them to get them to vote? 

How can we cry sectarianism when another major city had the list that won wage the following campaign: 

A municipal council should not be defined by the religion of its members. I’m sure the new municipal council in Tripoli will work for the whole city.

Tripoli, you may not have voted the way I wanted on Sunday, but you should be immensely proud in you saying no to your reality and seeking out change. Beirut Madinati tried in Beirut. It did well but did not succeed. Other alternatives to the political hegemony tried in other places and did not succeed as well. Political hegemony was brought to its knees on your streets. Respect. 

The Christian Delusion of Hezbollah

It is the time of electoral calculations. Parties plan out their moves depending on the yield of votes those moves could get them in 2013’s parliamentary elections or according to the extent that those moves can help their allies.

With this point of view, many (click here) saw Hezbollah’s “peaceful” demonstration against the anti-Islam movie as a calculated strategical move to show Lebanese Christians that their alternative is better: i.e. the Islam they have to offer is superior to that of those who burn down fast food restaurants and, in a more global sense, attack embassies.

During the protest, several TV stations interviewed Hezbollah members who answered Hassan Nasrallah’s call. They all had one common thing to say: “This is our leader. We will not let anyone make fun of him and when it happens, we will answer.”
The leader they were referring to was obviously Mohammad. The leader that sentence also applies to is Hassan Nasrallah – the declaration can go both ways depending on who’s in a tough spot, so to speak.

And it is here that Hezbollah’s main Christian problem lies. Regardless of all the “peace” they advocate and promote, the mentality that they are ready to do anything for either their prophet or their leader puts off the majority of Christians in droves and equates them with the bad clumsy Sunnis who see in KFC a sign of the devil. I mean, have you seen those chickens?

The Christian side is divided into two main players. One tries to explain the rising Sunni extremism while attacking the hidden extremism of the Shiites. The other player totally forgets about the extremism that’s harbored with a signed document and flaunts what those other Muslims. The Christian supporters of each player will eat the rhetoric up. They will get into endless quarrels about those other bad Muslims. No one will convince the other.
So who’s at play? The “independent” Christian vote, little as that may be, who sees in both Hezbollah and the Sunnis that Hezbollah is trying to come off as different from as evils that need to be eradicated. It is the “independent” Christian vote that’s feeling increasingly threatened as a minority and is seeking reassurance.
His reassurance will not come at the hands of Hassan Nasrallah, regardless of what some politicians want you to believe. It comes at the hand of Christian leaders who have their most basic ideologies at war: we are not in danger vs we need a minority alliance to be safe.

The pursuit of Christian votes by Hezbollah for his sake and the sake of his main Christian ally is futile. Why? Because it plays on two fronts. One, the Lebanese voter – for anything non civil war related (because you know they all remember everything there is to remember about that event) – has a memory that spans a few seconds. By the time next June rolls by, no one, apart from the highly politicized individuals, would remember what the Sunnis did to KFC or the sublime demonstration of Hezbollah. The second front is for those who remember and they are not irrelevant few.

There are those who remember how a few years ago when Basmet Watan had a Hassan Nasrallah dummy on their show, all hell broke loose as riots started and subsequently the show was stopped for a month. There are those who remember how the May 2008 events went along. There are those who remember how Samer Hanna got killed and how powers shifted in 2011. And regardless of where those people stand politically from those events, they will always play into them being so cautious from Hezbollah that the fake smiles they give the party of god are just that: fake. Yes, even those who theoretically support said party.

The fact of the matter is the Christians in Lebanon are wary of its Muslims. They are wary of both of their short fuses when it comes to the matters that touch each sect. The staunchest FPM supporter despises Hezbollah as much as they dislike Hariri. The staunchest LF supporter will tell you in secret how he doesn’t like Hariri as well. The common thing among both teams? They go with the flow and hope that one day the side they put their money on turns out to be the better side. But deep down they both know that in the game of thrones in Lebanon, the Christian vote is a Christian matter and what other sects do will hold little to no significance.

So why did Hezbollah hold a protest against the anti-Islam movie so late in the anti-Islam auction game? It’s quite easy actually. Have you heard anything Syria related when the movie protests were taking place? And herein lies your answer.

Don’t Blame The Lebanese Sunnis – Blame What Got Them Here

Picture via Annahar

It’s very easy for Lebanese to get carried away. They do it way too often and way too dramatically. On the other hand, it only lasts for about a brief period before they move on from that theatrical moment.

The latest Lebanese moment has been going on for more than a week now but it’s escalating. Some Lebanese have taken it to the next level by proclaiming that another civil war is upon us. Blame the short memory span for this – they seem to have forgotten worse has happened on May 7th, 2008 and we still got out of it. They seem to have forgotten a very similar thing took place on January 2011 when Hariri’s government was toppled. A reminder should be in order, just in case.

So today blaming the Sunnis for the situation in the country has become the way to go – how better are they than those who burned Beirut on May 7th, 2008? What’s the whole purpose behind burning tires and closing roads?

The answer is simple. Anger.

The Sunnis of Lebanon are angry. They are angry because:

  1. The prime minister who supposedly represents their sect doesn’t do so one bit.
  2. The political leader who realistically represents their sect is nowhere to be found. He’s possibly eating croissant in Paris, lecturing via twitter – and not doing a good job at that as well.
  3. How the person mentioned in 2 went out of power and the person mentioned in 1 got to power is due to a threat by their fellow Muslims, Hezbollah, who threatened to use weapons – and burn Beirut again – in case their demands aren’t met.
  4. Prominent Sunni figures get killed, the latest is Sheikh Ahmad Abdul Wahid in Akkar, and they can’t do anything but watch the news as a response.
  5. Their image, especially in Lebanon, has been distorted to showcase them all as a bunch of Salafists who want nothing but to establish an Islamic republic in Lebanon. The fact that Salafists are irrelevant politically in the Sunni community has escaped some people who just love to carry the idea around and shout it from any platform they can get.
  6. With every passing day, their position as one of the main sects in the country is being compromised. Think the Maronites in the 1970s. Wouldn’t you be worried?

As a reflex anger response to the killing of the Sheikh, the Sunnis have taken it to the streets. They are closing roads and burning tires, which is the maximum they can do. It still beats doing worse just because the government threatened to remove an officer from the airport. Whether you want to admit it or not, they don’t have the weapons arsenal that Hezbollah possesses. The amount of destruction they can do is far less reaching and disastrous. But who cares, right?

BeirutSpring has described how the protests are coming off to Lebanese people and he hit the nail on the head:

But their protests, even if cathartic, are creating three big headaches for their community:

  1. They are angering the rest of the Lebanese by inconveniencing them and reminding them of the war. Sunnis are coming across as irresponsible and dangerous.
  2. They are not achieving anything. Even if the point was to establish deterrence (to make others think twice before upsetting the Sunnis), it’s not working. It’s just a loud and costly tantrum.
  3. They are establishing a reputation that the Sunnis are an excitable bunch that can easily be provoked.

But here’s why the way the Lebanese population is responding cannot but be hypocritical at best.

  1. Why wasn’t the anger at what’s happening today also present back in May 2008? Because when some sects and parties burn down Beirut, it’s because they are fighting Israel, when others do so it’s because they are fighting Lebanese. You gotta love Lebanese logic.
  2. On the long run, they aren’t achieving anything because this type of action gets you nowhere. The Sunnis have done something very similar last January. Did that get them anywhere? No. In fact, I’ve heard many ridiculing their “day of anger.” The sentences I’ve heard? “They should come to us to teach them how to be angry.” I suppose you can tell who’s meant by “us.”
  3. In a country where a fragile peace is kept by miraculous measures, where the situation is like a yoyo rocking backwards and forwards between peace and no peace, I think the Sunnis have shown lots of restraint especially with everything they’ve been dealt. If they want to be portrayed as an excitable bunch, what does that say about those who get excited because of much less and react much much more than this?

Am I with what the Sunnis are doing? No. I’m against all forms of violence because they lead nowhere except springing more fear and hate. But is the panic about the situation justified? Definitely not. It has happened before in Lebanon and it will happen again as long as not everyone in the country is on equal footing. Is the judgement against those protesting justified? Perhaps so. After all, you can’t but look down on burning tires and blocking roads. But people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Developing thick skin for all sects is needed. Some have it more than others. But in a country where the major player doesn’t have skin, how is skin thickening for everyone else remotely possible?